Both bloggers and users of Twitter closely followed the ebb and flow of the Senate's debate over health care reform last week, commenting on each step of the way.
From December 21-25, fully 44% of the news links in blogs were about health care, according to the New Media Index from the Pew Research Center's Project for Excellence in Journalism. This attention far surpassed the previous high of 23% the week of August 10-14. And while a hot topic all year for social media, this was just the third time that it ranked as the number one subject.
Most of the focus last week was on negotiations in the Senate over the reform bill which passed after much debate on Christmas Eve. Many supporters admitted the Senate's version was not perfect, but applauded the passage nevertheless. Opponents focused on deals made with Democratic lawmakers in order to secure their votes in favor. Both sides paid a great deal of attention to the nuances and nature of the debate with their own tone at times heated and spiteful.
Beyond health care, the second-biggest topic on blogs was an international call for action. A Facebook and Twitter campaign in Britain to upset the favored top Christmas single received 13% of the links. A 17-year-old song by the politically active rock band, Rage Against the Machine, received enough downloads through this campaign to defeat the song by the winner of Britain's popular talent search TV show, The X Factor. Many bloggers celebrated the upset victory as a sign that online grassroots movements could top corporate interests.
A Washington Post interview with President Obama about his first year in office finished third at 11%. Fourth (at 8%) was the unexpected death of 32-year-old actress Brittany Murphy, apparently of natural causes. And a Los Angeles Times report that California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger was going to ask for federal assistance to help with the state's budget crisis finished fifth at 5%.
Read the full report Bloggers Track the Nuances of the Health Care Debate on the Pew Research Center's Project for Excellence in Journalism Web site.